I saw Terrence Mallick’s The Tree of Life in Waco.
Part of the movie is set in Waco. Despite a few stock Waco shots, the film was shot in Smithville, like so many other movies since Hope Floats. And like many other movies, it had a substantial local economic impact.
The story of the Texas film industry is an old story. Yet, I had high expectations because of talents like Brad Pitt and Sean Penn combined with the Texas spin of a Waco setting. After all, there’s the tradition of the Waco kid in Blazing Saddles and an old Western movie by the name Waco. In addition, the Kurt Russell vehicle Waco that retells the Branch Davidian fiasco in 1993 is scheduled to be released this year.
The story line of The Tree of Life is not a traditional narrative. In fact, The Tree of Life illustrates what a narrative is not. When you have 1950s family in Waco juxtaposed with the birth of the universe, volcanoes, the evolution of life, a lungfish, or a meat eating dinosaur not eating a plant eating dinosaur, or the angst of Sean Penn in an elevator, you are tempted to pronounce Waco Wacko. Yes, I understand the obvious—it’s the formation of the universe and how the tree of life connects everything. I also know that Douglas Adams told this story better in his five-part trilogy.
I must say the Waco audience that remained to the end of what was two hours and nineteen minutes of film, was stunned.
I don’t mean stunned by beauty. I mean stunned as hit across the head with a two-by-four stunned. A few appeared as winded as if they’d tried to run a marathon without training.
Despite a few wonderful, but disconnected scenes, I’d have to recommend Eraserhead or the BBC’s Planet Earth over this film. In fact, Eraserhead moves like an action flick in comparison to The Tree of Life.
As for the movie winning the the Palm De’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, I must point out the emperor wears no clothes. The Palm De’Or, as a few of you know, is the highest prize at the film festival and is presented to the director of the best feature film of the competition.
It’s the same prize that The Third Man, Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now won.
Obviously, the Texas film industry will continue to thrive and grow despite politics in Austin and creations such as this. Yes, I know Mallick went to Harvard and Oxford. Yes, I know Mallick is a Rhodes Scholar. Yes. I know he taught philosophy at MIT. Yes, I know Mallick may have been born in Waco, or he may have been born in Ottawa, Illinois Yes, I know the master Roger Ebert gave this movie four stars. Yes, I’m know I’m just a hamburger eater from Texas.
Yes, there's that weight of the establishment screaming this film is a masterpiece at the same time I feel a bit dazed by the movie set in Waco I saw today in Waco.
The Tree of Life. Wacko. No clothes, and not much of a body.